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‘God Forbid We Should Talk About Joy’: Jennie C. Jones on Dodging Pressure to Signify Blackness in Her Art, and Finding Her Own Language

Jennie C. Jones at the Guggenheim Museum, 2022. © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Photo: David Heald | Taylor Dafoe, March 16, 2022 | ARTNET NEWS

Mar 16, 2022

A survey of Jones’s work, which includes sculpture, painting, and audio, is on view now at the Guggenheim.

A visual artist interested in sound, Jennie C. Jones is a composer in both senses of the word.

With their muted palettes and modular configurations, Jones’s works harken back to the postwar abstractions of painters like Barnett Newman and Agnes Martin, who made a virtue of empty space, and pay homage to the Black musical avant-garde of the 1950s, such as free-jazz pioneers who turned strategic silence into a statement.

Jones employs a similar tactic. Her canvases combine elements of both painting and sculpture, but their effect is as aural as it is visual. Often incorporating acoustic panels—her signature material—they shape the sound in the rooms where they’re installed. Don’t expect a profound sonic shift, though. The effect is barely perceptible. More than anything, they invite you to stop and listen, to contemplate the ambient waves of sound already swimming around—and their relationship to the history of minimal aesthetics.

“Listening,” Jones has said, “is a conceptual practice” all its own. It’s a strategy that asks, rather than demands, your attention. Finally, it seems, the art world is tuning in.

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